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Orcs Must Die! Unchained Hands-on Impressions From PAX East

Last Friday at PAX East Robot Entertainment, creators of the Orcs Must Die! franchise, unveiled its latest game in the series, Orcs Must Die! Unchained. For the first time in the series, players can now let their competitive juices flow thanks to Orcs Must Die! Unchained’s new gameplay model, which is rooted in the “Fortress Siege” style of multiplayer gaming. Another first introduced in Orcs Must Die! Unchained is the fact that both sides must simultaneously defend their fortress, while also sending minions to capture the enemy’s stronghold. Thanks to the duality of this game type, every match is a fine balance of offensive maneuvers and defensive planning, which makes for some challenging, yet fun and rewarding gameplay.

While at PAX East I had the opportunity to play a match of Orcs Must Die! Unchained while being coached by the CEO of Robert Entertainment,¬†Patrick Hudson. Patrick is a great guy to work with, and he offered valuable advice for my first ever competitive multiplayer match in an Orcs Must Die! game. Unfortunately for him, his student couldn’t put his strategies to work as intended.

In OMDU you better bring your friends
In OMDU you better bring your friends

Before each match of an Orcs Must Die! Unchained game, five players on each team must select their character to play with. Each of these user controlled characters are formidable forces on the battlefield and come packed with two attacks tied to the mouse buttons, as well as two special powers tied to the Q and E keyboard keys. The special powers require a charging period to use, so they must be dispensed with precision, where the regular attacks can be spammed all match long.

Patrick set me up with a tank-like character named Temper that was massive in size and looked like a Minotaur on growth hormone. This character is geared towards rift defense, but he’s also useful to mop up foes en route to capturing the opposing team’s rift, and therefore their base. He’s not the fastest character, but he makes up for his lack of speed in his devastating melee attacks. Anytime I found myself in the midst of a skirmish I could always count on taking out at least two enemy units thanks to my character’s He-Man-like offensive swings.

On the other hand, anytime I tried to mount an offensive with him I had to make sure I had faster units around me, or at least another human player, to have any chance of making it to the enemy’s base. This is due to the character’s slow speed, which doesn’t bode well for open ground sprints to the promise land.

This type of balance is what makes Orcs Must Die! Unchained so strategic in nature. One of the reasons my team ultimately lost is because we couldn’t communicate with each other to coordinate strategies, and I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off. To win, each team must balance its defenses by using traps, or player controlled units, but at the same time offensive forces must be engaged to chip away at the opposing team’s defenses. The first team to get a set number of minions into the opposing team’s rift wins, so if a team just focuses on defense it’ll fail, and vice versa.

Each player must find a balance between defense and offense
Each player must find a balance between defense and offense

Speaking of minions, these are AI controlled units that fight on your behalf for offensive charges. They must be unlocked at Warcamps using in-game currency that you can earn with your character, and then spend to both unlock and then upgrade minion units. Since my character was better suited for defense Patrick had me remain close to the Warcamps so I could spend my resources on it to unlock bigger and better minions to send off to the enemy base. Of course, while this is all going on you must also worry about the enemy team launching an offensive attack on your own base, so again, balancing out your team and focusing on both fronts is crucial to succeed.

In addition to having fun and frenetic gameplay, Orcs Must Die! Unchained is also a great looking game. I asked Patrick what engine the game used, because many of the smaller titles being shown at PAX were running on Unity, but he explained that Robot Entertainment decided to go with Unreal Engine 3. I then asked him about Unreal Engine 4, and if his team thought about going down that untested rabbit hole, but he said it wasn’t quite ready for development when they started to build Orcs Must Die! Unchained.

Not that it really matters because the game looks great, and has a very vibrant palette of colors. When defending a rift the hues are dark and moody, but while making a charge to the enemy’s base you’ll be treated to bright cartoonish visuals that please the senses. I also didn’t notice any frame rate issues, nor did the game stutter a bit, and at times it felt like 50 characters were on screen at once in a corridor wide enough to only fit 10 characters.

OMDU looks great using Unreal Engine 3 technology
OMDU looks great using Unreal Engine 3 technology

Orcs Must Die! Unchained maintains the charm of its predecessors while also flipping the franchise on its head with the introduction of the “Fortress Siege” gameplay model. The game looks fantastic, but it plays even better. Don’t plan on being a lone wolf though, because you won’t succeed, and you’ll only ensure that your team loses. This game is all about perfecting the balance between offense and defense, so strategy and communication are key to winning.

If you’ve enjoyed the previous two Orcs Must Die! games, you’ll definitely appreciate the new take Robot Entertainment has in store for you. If you’ve never played a game in the series but love “Fortress Siege” gameplay, then you should plan on downloading this game once it drops later this year. Fans eager to get their hands on it early can enlist into the Founder’s Program to get early access to the Alpha. Head on down below to check out the teaser trailer to see Orcs Must Die! Unchained in action!

Orcs Must Die! Unchained is a PC exclusive that will be free-to-play sometime in late 2014.

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Tags : HandsOnImpressionsOrcs Must Die! UnchainedPAX East 2014
Matt Heywood

The author Matt Heywood

Matt Heywood is the founder and EIC of EntertainmentBuddha.com where he strives to make you a better geek, one post at a time! When he’s not scouring the Internet for interesting nuggets of awesomeness he can be found in his secret lair enjoying the latest and greatest video games, taking pictures of toys, or talking Star Wars on EB’s Star Wars Time podcast show.